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Laos: Stuck for months in tinsel town

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CHIANG RAI, Thailand, 25 May 2020: Laos has sent home hundreds of Chinese gamblers and workers from casinos and unfinished second-home condominiums at a so-called ‘special economic zone’ (SEZ) located on the banks of the Mekong River.

The massive development that includes around 20 high-rise condominium blocks, mainly second-home apartments sold to Chinese gamblers and retirees dominates the riverside skyline when viewed from the Thai side of the Golden Triangle tourist site. Construction of the riverside city was going full throttle until around Chinese New Year in late January 2020. Ferries made frequent daily trips crossing the river loaded with cement trucks from factories in Thailand.

According to a Radio Free Asia report, more than 300 Chinese gamblers and workers have returned home after months held in quarantine in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos.

Most of the Chinese sent home had come to the Golden Triangle as tourists before the SEZ casinos closed last March and were subsequently stranded when the border with Thailand closed.  Previously, gamblers flew to Chiang Rai’s airport from China and drove the 80 km to the river border before crossing to “little China” in Laos.

“The authorities have sent over 300 Chinese back home over fears of Covid-19 and because the border has been closed,” a resident of Bokeo province’s Ton Pheung district told RFA’s Lao Service, without saying how or when the returnees had left the country.

The SEZ in Laos began operations in 2007, but the full extent of land development funded by Chinese investors and the possible inclusion of an airport project remains a mystery.

(Source: Radio Free Asia)

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